Milford Track Guided Walk or Hollyford Track Guided Walk, Hike Beaches and Rainforest of the West Coast, Queenstown, Hiking Mt Aspiring National Park, Hiking at Paparoa National Park, Fox Glacier & Mount Cook
Monday Arrive, hike Castle Hill
Most people leave the Northern hemisphere on a Saturday evening and arrive in Auckland early on Monday morning. You’ll lose a day to the dateline - but you get it back on the way home! You’ll immediately take the short flight to Christchurch in the South Island arriving by 10am or so. We’ll meet you and head west to Castle Hill in the Kuru Tawhiti Conservation Area located in the heart of the Southern Alps. We’ll take our first hike here - a gentle one-hour walk amongst imposing limestone tors which were once a meeting place for Moa hunters of the Ngai Tahu Maori tribe. The Dalai Lama visited this area in 2002, and described it as the “Spiritual Center of the Universe ! After lunch in nearby Arthur’s Pass, we head to Greymouth and up the coastal road to the gorgeous seaside village of Punakaiki. We always make sure the first day of our trips is relaxing and undemanding so you can recover from your flight. Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll probably find jetlag is no big deal - it’s a 12-hour direct overnight flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, and there’s only a three-hour time difference between New Zealand and US Pacific time. If you have more time, by all means arrive in New Zealand a day or so early.
ACCOMMODATION: West Coast lodgings, Punakaiki. (L,D)
Tuesday Rainforest and Beach Hiking in Punakaiki
We have a whole day and another night at Punakaiki and we'll certainly make the most of our time. Today we'll hike the best section of the Inland Pack Track, from Bullock Creek to the Pororari River. We start at a classic submergence, where the river suddenly dries up mid-stream, and goes underground for a mile or so before resurfacing at Cave Creek. The rainforest in this area is unbelievably lush, and the limestone canyons and distant hazy mountains of Paparoa National Park make this an awesome day hike. We'll also follow the Truman Track to a small surf beach and stroll around the famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes. The Punakaiki coastline is a magnet to marine mammals, and two species of dolphins often come right to the inner shore line. There's also a great deal of marine birdlife, including penguins that can be spotted if you're lucky!
ACCOMMODATION: West Coast lodgings, Punakaiki. (B,L,D)
Wednesday Arts & crafts in Hokitika, coastal hiking
We'll start with a short drive down the coast for a hike through coastal forest and native flax. A traditional resource for the local Maori, flax was a widely used plant - from footwear to rope to woven food storage baskets. Next it's on to Hokitika where we'll spend a little time checking out local art galleries and pounamu carving workshops (pounamu is Maori for jade). From here it's a couple of hours down the coast to Franz Josef for dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner we can head out for a short night walk to look for the eerie lights of Arachnocampa luminosa - the native glow worm - and listen for some of New Zealand's nocturnal birdlife, such as the distinctive hoot of the Morepork owl.
ACCOMMODATION: Franz Josef Lodgings, Franz Josef (B,L,D)
Thursday Hiking near Fox Glacier
Today we'll visit the formidable glaciers of the South Island. We will take a morning hike to the historic Tartare Tunnels, and then continue on to the Franz Josef Glacier, where we walk right up to the impressive terminal face. The Franz Josef Glacier is an enormous river of ice, unusual in that it comes right down through the rainforest to sea level.
Heli-hike option(add US$240+Tax)
A less strenuous, but outrageously scenic option today is to heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier itself. After being fitted with crampons, ice axes and so on, you'll board a modern turbine helicopter and fly towards the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, landing on the glacier at 4,000 feet above sea level. Led by specialist glacier guides, you'll hike through the grand ice formations of the glacier, checking out its crevasses, seracs and tunnels - No previous experience required! The constant movement of the glacier means every day is different, so your guides will cut steps in the ice, and make sure you make the most of the conditions. At the end of your hike on the ice, you'll take another helicopter ride out of the mountains, and back to civilization.
The heli-hike is extremely popular with the general traveling public, so we offer advance reservations with the helicopter operators and guiding company. At the time of booking, or up until one month before your trip, you can reserve a space on the heli-hike, and we'll make sure a spot is held for you. You can leave your decision until you're actually on your trip, and we'll get you a spot if it's available.
Heli-hikers generally return a little earlier, so we all rendezvous at a local cafe, and head south. From Franz Josef it's about three hours down the coast to Makarora (pop. 30), which is a camp settlement directly next to Mt. Aspiring National Park. At Makarora we have a lovely family-style homestead in the shadow of the mountains to ourselves for the evening.
ACCOMMODATION: The Homestead, Makarora - very comfortable and spacious. (B,L,D)
Friday Mt. Aspiring National Park, Queenstown
We begin with a drive from Makarora to Raspberry Creek, where we start a stunning hike up the Matukituki Valley, in the heart of Mt. Aspiring National Park. This is one of the best one-day hikes in the South Island, taking in tumbling rivers, towering snowfields, and huge mountain peaks straight from the set of The Lord of the Rings! We hike up a narrow glacial valley, coming out of the forest in a dramatic alpine cirque, with fabulous views of the Southern Alps. After lunch, we hike back to the trailhead, and head into Queenstown. Queenstown is a picturesque town set in a basin on the edge of Lake Wakatipu, and surrounded by mountains. It's a great place to spend a couple of days enjoying the comforts of civilization before heading out on the Milford Track.
ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments. (B,L)
Saturday Free day in Queenstown
You'll find all the comforts of civilisation in Queenstown: massage therapists, restaurants, cafes and window-shopping. You can also go fishing, kiwi viewing, wine tasting, horse trekking, hang gliding and even bungy jumping! Your guides will help you arrange any extra activities and can also point out the best local hikes. Or you can do nothing and just soak up the atmosphere. This afternoon we'll also have a pre-departure briefing for the Milford and Hollyford Track Guided Walks.
ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments. (B)
Sunday Hike through beech forest to Pyke River Lodge
It's an early start this morning as we head from Queenstown through the Eglinton Valley to the start of the Hollyford Track. We'll stop at a historic road workers' camp for a breather, before taking to the trail itself. We follow the Hollyford River through native forest to a well-equipped, comfortable wilderness lodge. Pyke River Lodge is a magical place ? it is absolutely secluded, nestled in the rugged Fiordland National Park ? but despite its isolation, has private rooms, hot showers, and awesome meals. We'll have another opportunity to see glow worms as we'll head out after dinner to Pyke River Lodge's own glow worm grotto.
ACCOMMODATION: Pyke River Lodge (B,L,D)
Monday Hike to Lake Alabaster and alongside Lake McKerrow
Today we hike to Lake Alabaster which is often shrouded in fog, giving it a wonderfully moody, misty feel in the morning. We then check out the podocarp rainforest in the area before hiking alongside Lake McKerrow towards the coast. This section of the track can be a little challenging, but don't worry, there's a jet boat waiting to pick us up and take us to Martins Bay Lodge at the end of the day. The lodge is very close to the sea, so tonight, after a hot shower, you can dine on kaimoana, or seafood, the traditional fare of the Maori people in this area.
ACCOMMODATION: Martins Bay Lodge (B,L,D)
Tuesday Scenic flight and overnight cruise on Milford Sound
This morning starts with a jet boat trip to Martins Bay beach for a chance to explore the four mile stretch of sand dunes and lagoon. After returning to Martins Bay Lodge we'll take an unforgettable flight through the canyons and valleys of the Darran Mountains to Milford Sound, and then down to Milford Sound village. After lunch, we'll board our charming cruise boat, which has all the mod cons, but still maintains its old-world charm. You'll have the chance to explore the fiord by sea kayak or tender craft, and then we'll head northwest to watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea and visit the resident seal population lazing on the rocks. At some point along the journey, we'll probably be visited by Milford Sound's local pod of dolphins, who like nothing more than to play in the waves made by the boat's bow.
ACCOMMODATION: Cruise boat on Milford Sound - stable and comfortable (B,L,D)
Wednesday Return to Queenstown
We'll arrive back in Milford Sound and drive through to the lakeside village of Te Anau for lunch, before a short drive back to Queenstown leaving you with a free afternoon to enjoy all to yourself.
ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B,L)
Thursday Hike Ben Lomond
After a relaxed breakfast we'll ride up the Queenstown Gondola which climbs its way to the top of a tree-covered rocky crag, known as Bob's Peak, to start an alpine hike. Ben Lomond, one of Queenstown's prominent peaks, was named by the early Scottish settlers in the area who were reminded of the highlands of their home country. From Bob's Peak, we hike through open alpine tussock-land to the Ben Lomond saddle where you'll find yourself immersed in amazing views over Queenstown Bay and Lake Wakatipu which are themselves dwarfed by the surrounding mountains of the Southern Alps. For those keen to press on to the top, Ben Lomond's summit reveals views of Mt. Earnslaw and Mt. Aspiring, two of New Zealand's highest peaks. This evening we'll meet up with those that hiked the Milford Track to chat about our experiences over dinner.
ACCOMMODATION: Queenstown apartments (B,L,D)
FridayHiking the Sam Summers Loop Track
After breakfast, we head out around Lake Wakatipu to 12 Mile Delta where we’ll hike the Sam Summers Track. The area was mined for gold until the 1930’s and there are still many relics to be seen along the way. After this hike, we’ll head to the historic village of Arrowtown for lunch before continuing on to Amisfield Winery. This region’s dry and sunny climate is ideal for grape growing, and is becoming well known for producing world-class, cool-climate Pinot Noir, and other quality wines. We’ll enjoy a glass or two, and then head north to Lake Ohau Lodge. Here we’re staying beside a beautiful alpine lake, with stunning views stretching across to Mt. Cook and the Southern Alps..
ACCOMMODATION: Lake Ohau Lodge, Lake Ohau. (B,L,D)
Saturday Hiking at Mt.Cook
It's a short drive to Mt. Cook Village, where we have a stunning and little-known day hike up to the main ridge above Mueller Glacier. It's a tough three to four-hour slog up, but you'll remember the view of the Mueller Glacier and the peaks of the Main Divide forever! Many of our clients have said this is the greatest hike they have ever done, and it's a splendid way to finish off a great trip. There are other hiking options too though for those who'd like to take it a little easier. The weather conditions are very important in this area, as it's a true alpine climate notorious for sudden weather shifts. If we aren't able to do the ridge hike, we'll take an impressive hike up the Hooker Valley to a glacial lake at the base of the Hooker Glacier, complete with icebergs! After hiking, it's well under two hours to Lake Tekapo Village. You'll spend your last night in New Zealand in one last beautiful location, beside the sky-blue Lake Tekapo, with the mountains shining in the background.
ACCOMMODATION: Lakeside lodgings, Lake Tekapo. (B,L,D)
Sunday Depart for home
We'll leave after breakfast for the three-hour drive to Christchurch, and arrive early afternoon in time for flights back to Auckland. Any international flight after 4pm is ideal, and we can make domestic flights as early as 2.30pm with a little notice. International flights from Auckland usually leave early evening, so if you're heading back to North America, you'll get home some time on Sunday, even though you left on Sunday evening! Flights back to Europe, of course, take a little longer. But you'll be refreshed and invigorated from the good food, exercise, rest, and great times you'll have had with us in New Zealand!
"Charles Darwin once described New Zealand as 'one of the most inhospitable countries within the limits of the globe' and I would like to say that he was absolutely wrong; New Zealand is one of the most hospitable places on the globe, it was absolutely breathtaking and he would change his mind if he could take a Winter Rimu tour. This was a very close group and we never let the rain get us down, we always looked forward to whatever Grant and Jacqui had in store for us. As for locations, I loved Okarito (those were the greatest 30 people in the world), I loved Queenstown, everywhere really. Unbelievably well-organized activities, extremely flexible and they were the perfect level -- not too hard and not to easy. "
-- Phil Bateman (Toronto, Canada) 19 May 2003 Winter Rimu
ACCOMMODATIONS: The Manuka is a backcountry wilderness trip. You'll be staying in the highest level of accommodations available in the remote places we take you. While it features more creature comforts than some of our other trips, it's not a scenic tour of the luxury hotels of the South Island. We prefer to stay in comfortable bed and breakfasts, lodges and apartments. You will always have your own bedroom where it's available. As there's such a variety of accommodations on this trip, some places will have ensuite bathrooms and some will have shared bathrooms, So we may ask you to share a bathroom with other group members on occasion.
RECOMMENDED FLIGHTS: If you're flying in on the first day of the trip, or out on the last day, we recommend arriving in Christchurch by approximately 9 - 10.30am on Monday, and departing from Christchurch after 2.30 - 4pm on Sunday. Other flight times may also be possible - If you are considering alternative flight times please let us know.
PICK-UP INFORMATION: On the first day of the trip we can either pick you up from the Heritage Hotel in Christchurch at 10.30am or at the Christchurch domestic airport in front of the information desk at 11am.
DROP OFF INFORMATION: On the last day of the trip we can drop you off at the Christchurch airport in time for the flights above, or anywhere in central Christchurch in mid-late afternoon.
TRIP DIRECTION : To keep our group sizes down, we run the Manuka trip in two different directions around the South Island - Northbound (refers to initial direction of travel from Christchurch) and southbound. This itinerary happens to be written up in the Northbound format. We also run the Manuka starting and ending in Queenstown. Whichever trip you take, you'll do all the activities we've mentioned, just in a different order. The Manuka is a product of many years of evolution and fine-tuning - It works well whichever way you do it!
FITNESS: You must have a reasonable level of fitness to enjoy yourself. The level of fitness required on this trip is lower than on some of our other trips, but you should be in the habit of doing at least some exercise. You don't have to be young and extremely fit - Age and experience is not important, but it is important that you enjoy walking and hiking. This trip is not a passive scenic tour.
EXPERIENCE: You don't have to have any outdoor experience at all to take our trips. We're offering trips that allow you to make the most of New Zealand's incredible outdoor environment. Our experienced team is highly trained and will look after you! You don't have to carry a heavy pack. All we ask is that you are energetic and in reasonable shape and we guarantee you'll have an incredible time. We manage the level of commitment to suit your experience, and we have an impeccable safety record. We also hold all relevant government licenses.
FLEXIBILITY: Because of the off-the-beaten-path and non-commercial nature of some of our lodgings on this trip, we sometimes need to stay in different lodgings than specified in the itinerary. When we do this the daily activities don't change and we use accommodations of a similar level.
INCLUDED: Your trip fare includes just about everything, specifically:
All guiding services. We have two guides per trip, a lead guide/driver and a co-guide who is responsible for meals and accommodations. This means we can really make sure you have a great time! We operate with small groups and we don't hesitate to offer a second departure when our trips start getting full.
Comfortable accommodation for the entire period you are with us. We can also organize accommodation for you if you want to arrive earlier or leave later.
All your meals, except in Queenstown where we've found people prefer to check out the wide range of restaurants. Alcohol is not generally included, although we do spring for a few drinks here and there!
All hiking and kayaking described in the itinerary, except optional extra activities, such as the scenic flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown. We have estimated the rates for optional extra activities operated by local activity operators in US dollars, including all required equipment, but these rates may vary according to the USD/NZD exchange rate of the day. There are many optional activities available at extra cost, particularly in Queenstown. None of these activities are compulsory, and nor will your trip seem less awesome if you do the cheap or free options. Although some people enjoy sampling hang gliding, bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, and so on, others prefer to focus more on the hiking, which is of course the reason you're coming to New Zealand in the first place!
NOT INCLUDED: This is your holiday, and we are serious about not nickel-and-diming you! You'll have a few meals and drinks to cover, extra activities if you choose them, and you'll probably feel like tipping your guides at the end of a fabulous time, but you won't be pulling out your wallet every few minutes on your trip!
We'll see you soon!